They are despised
by some and often killed. Yet, the presence of
/stray cats on farms, ranches, abandoned buildings, and urban alleys often starts with the abandonment of someone’s pets. These animals are usually not spayed or neutered, and therefore, populations multiply and go unchecked. However, there are solutions to curb feral cat populations without lethal means and to care for them in compassionate
This humane approach to addressing feral cat issues, particularly breeding, not only saves cats’ lives but also addresses community concerns. What is TNR? Cats are humanely trapped
, taken to a veterinarian, spayed/neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, ear-tipped (this is the way to know if a cat is part of a TNR program), and returned to their outdoor community.
This program began in the United Kingdom., and in 1990, the non-profit Alley Cat Allies formed in the United States and began implementing the project. Such a program “improves the co-existence between outdoor cats and humans in our shared environment,” according to the organization.
Learn more about Alley Cat Allies and TNR by watching this short video: https://youtu.be/A14ZH-RSdKo
The American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also supports TNR and other methods of working with feral cats. Read some of their ideas here: https://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-community-cats-and-community-cat
Feral Cats, Birds, and Other Animals
Even though songbirds can be killed
by stray/feral cats, a bird is harder to catch than a mouse. Just as a bobcat or lynx stalks a rabbit for its meal, cats that live outdoors or in a barn are beneficial for keeping rodent populations, like mice, which spread disease to humans, to a minimum. During times of ships crossing the ocean, seafarers employed
cats for just that purpose, and farmers and ranchers to this day have cats on hand to keep down the mouse and rat populations.
Friends of mine own a ranch about 75 miles from where I live. They welcome the stray cats which come onto their property. They feed them and whenever possible,
them humanely, take them to the vet for spay/neuter and vaccination, then release them back on the ranch. Their barns and outbuildings have less
because of these cats. I have rarely seen a dead bird on their property, and my friends even put out feeders for the songbirds; therefore, they aren’t concerned
about the feral cats killing birds.
One of the stray cats they discovered a few years ago had been someone’s pet for she was/is super friendly and even declawed. She is now their house pet, although she is allowed
outdoors on occasion
. I wrote a short story about “Fancy the Farm Cat” that I’m happy to share with you; just a leave a comment on this blog post.
Read a comment from Alley Cat Allies regarding bird and animal predation by feral cats here: https://www.alleycat.org/alley-cat-allies-statement-about-journal-of-conservation-biology-article/
Help for Community/Stray/Feral Cats
During my travels, I've visited two small towns, one in Wyoming and the other in Oregon, where community cats were cared
for and TNR programs were implemented
. People and town governments can work together, alongside local and national cat advocate groups, to help reduce populations of feral/stray/community cats and do so in humane and compassionate, non-lethal ways.
Best Friends Animal Society provides resources for those who desire to help stray cats in their community. They also run successful program partnerships with other animal welfare organizations in Utah, where Best Friends is based
. Learn more about these endeavors here: https://utah.bestfriends.org/our-programs/communitycats
As the ASPCA notes, “Community cats exist because of generations of human action and inaction, therefore humanely addressing the needs of these cats and implementing programs which help prevent their reproduction, are the responsibility of the communities in which they live. The ASPCA encourages cat advocates, animal shelters and rescues, local government officials and the public to work together….”
To receive a free copy of my short story “Fancy the Farm Cat,” please leave a comment and your email address.
Her name was Maggie, and she needed a ride home. I offered to take her part-way, so on Friday, November 8, we hit the interstate. I volunteered to drive her 180 miles south, getting her closer to home, and another driver graciously took the remainder
of the route. Maggie, a senior Boston terrier mix, arrived safely into the arms of her adoptive person.
Each of us found a place in rescue
that day: two of us as volunteer transporters; Maggie, of course,
being rescued; and her adopter. That’s the case with all animal rescue; people and the pets each have a role, a place, in the process
I’ve transported for rescue organizations for more than a decade. In Wyoming, where I live, distance between towns can be extensive, sometimes as much as 50 miles or more from community to community. There’s a gap to be filled
in getting many dogs and cats into rescue and into the homes of new families. I fill that void whenever possible
for whatever rescue organization needs a driver.
Theo, another Boston terrier I transported several years ago, seemed in-tune to what was transpiring the day I took him 150 miles from my community north to another Wyoming town. He stretched his small body from the passenger seat toward the window. His round, black eyes surveyed the landscape as my car zipped along the interstate. Curiosity kept him attentive to the passing grass, trees, and spring wildflowers. Yet, something else seemed to stir within the dog. As I slowed the car to the posted town speed limit and approached the second exit that would take us to a rest stop, Theo leaned closer to the dashboard. His front paws balanced there before I could place a protective arm across his chest. He watched intently, and I drove slowly. As we rounded the corner into the parking area, his ears peaked and his eyes stared. Waiting for us at the end of that drive were his adoptive pet-parents. He just seemed to know.
Volunteering as a transporter is a critical piece of the rescue puzzle, and I derive great joy from fulfilling this position. Knowing a companion animal is getting another chance to be loved
and doted upon just as I care for and spoil my own adopted pets makes those treks worthwhile. I’ve taken many breeds of dogs on journeys home, and I love doing so!
There is a place for many in pet rescue. Whether you set up an organization, as my friend Britney did with Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, volunteer as a foster parent as Joel and his wife Karen in Denver do (they fostered our latest adopted dog, Sadie), serve as a transporter like me, or adopt a pet as many of us have, each place in the system is necessary. What about you? What role can you play to help animals in need? Perhaps help at fundraising events. Donate supplies or
money. Volunteer to walk and play with dogs or brush and play with cats. Serve as a foster
. Transport. Adopt. Help educate and spread the word.
I aim to educate and inspire through my writing. Whether that’s blog posts like this one, a children’s book such as Jeremiah Finds a Home, or my new novel, my writing also has a role in rescue.
Rescue Road, my contemporary romance novel released last week, incorporates the concept of rescue, including setting up a facility and transporting dogs. The story weaves the idea of
second chances, not only for the animals in need of new homes but second chances for the primary characters who fall in love. Life is all about second chances, and we all need that now and then, just like rescued pets.
Animal rescue takes a village. No matter where we live, we can help animals in need. Will you join in this special cause and find your place in pet rescue?
My clean, contemporary romance novel is now available in e
-book or print format. Learn more, including viewing a book trailer and downloading the first chapter for FREE on my website: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/novels.html.
Rhiann sat on a maroon wing-backed chair inside Riverside Veterinary Clinic. Beside her lay Rae, the elderly beagle. In front of her, Colter’s silver-haired veterinarian, Dr. Henry Black, leaned back in a leather chair behind his walnut desk.
“I’m sorry about Rae, but with her age, diabetes, and the glaucoma’s progression, there isn’t much we can do at this stage,” he said, as he steepled his fingers.
Rhiann nodded. “I thought as much. I wish my grandmother’s friend had contacted me sooner. With her own eyesight dwindling, though, she most likely didn’t know how bad Rae’s condition had gotten.”
“That was very kind of you to take her dog.”
Rhiann smiled. “Grams wouldn’t have it any other way. Eleanor was a friend, and we felt it was the right thing to do when she had to move in with her daughter.” Rhiann stood and extended her hand. “Thank you, Dr. Black. I appreciate the opportunity to work with you, both personally and professionally.”
The veterinarian stood and shook her hand. “I look forward to our association, too. I’m sure we’ll be sending clients to one another.”
Rhiann looked at the napping beagle. “Come on, Rae. Time to pick up Jax from the groomer.”
As he walked her to the door, Dr. Black said, “I admire you for planning to establish a rescue here. With our ruralness, I often get in strays and sometimes even pets that owners cannot care for anymore. It will be nice to work with you to ensure these animals find new, loving homes.”
- Excerpt from Rescue Road - A Clean, Contemporary Romance
In my recently-released novel, Rescue Road, my primary female character, Rhiann, rescues dogs. Rae, the elderly beagle mentioned in the above book excerpt, has diabetes and glaucoma, two conditions that not only can go hand-in-hand, but are conditions that often affect aging pets. Arthritis and kidney disease are also common in elderly dogs and cats. As humans age, we also tend toward greater illnesses and afflictions. Yet, for some reason, many people dispose of their senior pets. Perhaps, as in my story, an elderly person goes to live where animals aren’t welcome or that elderly person passes away and no one in the family wants the pet that’s left behind. Whatever the reason, according to an article in Dogtime, "old dogs and cats have higher euthanasia rates or even live out their lives in a shelter kennel.”
Even though older pets aren’t adopted as quickly as younger animals, there are several good reasons to do so. Below are five:
1. Older animals are likely already housebroken and senior dogs more likely to know basic obedience than younger canines.
2. Senior pets make great companions for senior and less active people. They are content to enjoy a leisurely walk around the neighborhood or yard (yes, even some cats are leash
3. They often make great therapy animals, both for the adopter and for certification, going into senior living residences, libraries, schools, and hospitals (yes, old pets can learn new tricks!)
4. Senior animals still have lots of love to give and are devoted to the person caring for them.
5. What you see is what you get. You already know the animal’s size and temperament when you adopt a senior dog or cat.
Find additional reasons to adopt an elderly dog or cat here:
November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. My household currently
consists oftwo eight-year-old dogs (older, but not yet quite
senior) and two 14-year-old cats. We adopted Jeremiah, our Shih Tzu
, two years ago and Sadie, our springer spaniel, we adopted less than two months ago. The cats, however, have been with us nearly all their lives; we adopted them at 10 weeks of age just over 14 years ago (they were born in August 2005 and we adopted them in October of that year). We love and adore each pet. They bring us companionship, laughter, and love and they help us exercise, socialize, and relax. I relish cuddle times with them, reading a book, watching TV, or simply
lying in bed. They give their devotion and are always happy to be near. There’s nothing like
coming home after work or errands and having the dogs greet me at the door with happy dances and tail wags and the cats meeting me in the bedroom as I change clothes purring and wanting attention.
Scientists, including medical officials at the Centers for Disease Control, say having a pet makes a person healthier, mentally and physically. If you’re considering adopting a pet, don’t overlook the older and senior animals. They will fill you with joy and give you undivided loyalty. We can all use more of that in our lives. My character, Rhiann, would agree.
Rescue Road is a clean, contemporary romance set in the beautiful state of Montana and is now available, in time for Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. The book can be purchased
on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo as an e
-book and in print from Amazon. Visit my website to learn more about the book: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/novels.html
Rescue Road purchase links:
Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2W7fpBe
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2W7fpBe
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/2BAvqWZ
If you buy the book, you’re eligible for two additional resources: A recipe e
-book of autumn dishes and the first chapter of Book 2 in the Pet Rescue Romance series I’m writing - both FREE to you when you purchase Rescue Road. Simply email
me a copy of your purchase receipt and I will email these freebies to you. My email address is email@example.com. In the subject line, please put Rescue Road Giveaways. I hope you enjoy the story and I look forward to hearing from you! Feel free to share
this information with other readers and pet lovers you know!
They will soon be knocking
at our doors – ghouls, goblins, witches, vampires, storm troopers, and many more! These creatures can be scary, especially to our pets.
The end of October is often a frightening time for animals, especially for those left outdoors. Halloween brings out a lot of spookiness, including threats to black cats. Some statistics show an increase in animal cruelty during Halloween, and because black cats are surrounded
by myth and superstition, companion animal groups caution pet owners to keep their cats (and dogs) secure during Halloween. Between doorbells constantly ringing and strangers standing at the door covered in make-ups and masks, our pets can become stressed, even frantic. Plus, the opening and closing of the front door provides an opportunity to escape into the night. Therefore, make sure your pet is in a secure place, such as a different room or in his/her crate, during trick-or-treat time.
There are many safety concerns for pets during this time of year. Therefore, as Halloween descends, here are a few tips to keep your beloved pets safe:
You can find additional tips here: https://phz8.petinsurance.com/ownership-adoption/pet-ownership/pet-holidays/5-ways-to-keep-pets-safe-on-halloween.
Enjoy the festivities and keep your special four-footed friend safe this Halloween!
October is not just for dogs with National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month and October 22 designated by Subaru as Make a Dog’s Day - cats have a few special days of their own this month. For example, National Feral Cat Day falls in October, and National Cat Day in the United States, which falls on October 29.
Why this special designation on that particular day? Founded by Pet and Family Lifestyle Expert Colleen Paige, who also founded National Dog Day, National Puppy Day, and National Pet Day, this day celebrates cats and their importance in our lives. Rescues and shelters are encouraged to bring greater awareness of the need to adopt cats, and people are encouraged to showcase their furry feline friends with photos across social media.
The American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates more than 3.2 million cats and kittens enter U.S. shelters every year. Of that number, only about 5 percent of strays are reclaimed by their owners and more than 850,000 are euthanized. Many live out their lives at no-kill shelters. There is greater need for increased cat adoption.
The end of October is often a scary time for cats and other pets, especially for those left outdoors. Halloween brings out a lot of spookiness, including threats to black cats. Some statistics show an increase in animal cruelty during this time of year, and because black cats are surrounded by myth and superstition, companion animal groups caution pet owners to keep their cats (and dogs) secure during Halloween. Whereas some countries and cultures view black cats as “bad,” others feel the opposite. In fact, England and Scotland are known
to see black cats as lucky instead of unlucky.
No matter what type of pet you have, keeping your beloved furry friend safe is key during Halloween. Just opening the door for trick-or-treaters can cause your pet to run out the door. Therefore, keep your pet in a secure room while dishing out candy. Sweet treats eaten by dogs and cats can cause healthy
issues; therefore, put the yummy treats out of reach of your pets. For more Halloween safety tips, visit this ASPCA web page: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/halloween-safety-tips.
October is not only a time to keep your animals safe, but also a time to celebrate the joy dogs and cats give us. These special days and months should help us remember the amazing ways companion animals impact our lives and give us reason to honor and celebrate them each and every month and day. Spoil your pet in a special way today … and remember to keep them safe!
The man at the dog park told my husband he was traveling the country with his furry friend, an Australian shepherd mix. He also said the pair were visiting as many dog parks as they could, and that this stop, in our community in Wyoming, was just one of many. The man went on to say he’d been in a car accident a few years previous, and that his dog became a reason for him to get up, do his therapy, and improve his health. He said his dog “saved my life.”
Dogs do that. There are the K9s in the military and on police forces; there are the service dogs for blind and wheelchair-bound people; therapy animals that visit hospitals and nursing homes; and search and rescue dogs who find the lost (read a recent story from Ohio about such a canine who found a missing young child).
Next week, American Humane’s Hero Dog Awards will be shown on Hallmark Channel. This program, in its seventh year, showcases the many wonderful dogs on duty, and this year, the categories include Shelter Dogs. This is wonderfully appropriate since October is National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Car company Subaru recently announced its first Make a Dog’s Day, being celebrated on Tuesday, October 22. This month is certainly “going to the dogs,” and that’s just fine!
The ASPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates more than 3.3 million dogs enter America’s animal shelters every year. Some come in as strays and may be reunited with their owners; others are turned in by their people for various reasons. About half (1.6 million) are adopted and nearly 700,000 dogs are euthanized. October offers shelters, rescues, and others the opportunity to showcase the many wonderful dogs in need of homes through promotion of adoption.
My husband and I recently adopted a rescue dog named Sadie from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America. She may not be a service dog, military K9, or therapy dog, but she has rescued us. We lost our other springer, Mary, to cancer in April. That loss, like most pet losses, left a hole in our hearts, and left our Shih Tzu, Jeremiah, without a canine friend. Sadie is filling both voids. She and Jeremiah haven’t drawn as close and he and our other springer, but when Greg and I are away from the house, she at least provides companionship for him. Sadie has bonded strongly with my husband. She stays with him in his home office, goes for walks in the dog park and around the neighborhood, and spending time on the couch watching TV as well as outdoors in our back yard. That hole left by the passing of our other springer is slowly healing, thanks to a hyper springer spaniel named Sadie.
I’ve heard others say the same. After the passing of one pet, the adoption of another helps the healing from the loss. Dogs (and cats) help us in other ways, too. They fill a gap, for loneliness, for service, for recovery, for friendship. We rescue dogs, and they rescue us in many, varied and special ways.
So, this month, consider adopting a dog in need. And, if you can’t adopt, do something else to help, like volunteer, donate supplies or money, attend events. And always remember to be the best responsible pet parent as possible! We rescue dogs and they rescue us.
NOTE: My forthcoming novel, Rescue Road, is about second chances, both for the humans and the animals in the story. Releasing next month in honor of both October’s National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month and November’s National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month, the book highlights the importance of pet rescue and adoption and provides resources to do just that at the back of the book. Rescue Road will be available in both print and e-book format and is scheduled for release on November 9, 2019. Learn more about the novel and watch a short book trailer here: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/novels.html
Mystery stories haven’t always been my reading genre, but recently, due to two Wyoming authors who have “hit the big time” (Craig Johnson and CJ Box), this line of writing has captured my attention. Therefore, I was thrilled to learn about Linda O. Johnson and her works that weave pet rescue and animals in general into several of her books.
Pick and Chews is one of those stories.
Told in first-person point of view, a vet tech named Carrie sleuths murders in her community, and in this story, it’s the man she loves that’s a suspect. That guy, Dr. Reed Storme, is a veterinarian at the clinic where Carrie works; he and other veterinarians are at the top of the police’s suspect list for the murder of a woman vet who decides to open a competitive practice in town.
Witty, fun and adventurous with some twists in the story, Pick and Chews gives insight into several people who could be the murderer, including Dr. Storme. Additionally, readers are introduced to some of the wonderful dogs owned by the characters as well as ones available for adoption through the community’s rescue organization. I like how the author weaves the importance of pet rescue and adoption. Carrie, who is also a baker of both people and dog treats, hosts adoption events at her business. As the murder mystery deepens, Carrie’s own canine is threatened, causing the amateur detective to reconsider her sleuthing. Who’s the culprit? Read the story and find out!
Johnston has written numerous books, and Pick and Chews is just one of this Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series. A fun, cozy, clean read, pet lovers and mystery book lovers alike will enjoy this story! Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Pick-Chews-Barkery-Biscuits-Mystery/dp/0738752452.
As autumn turns to winter, if you’re looking for some enjoyable reading, you might consider some of Johnston’s works.
My husband and I recently welcomed Sadie, a springer spaniel, into our home. We adopted her through English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America's Rocky Mountain chapter, who had pulled Sadie from a shelter in Utah. At eight years of age, a person would think her training days are over. But, not so!
Sadie came to us knowing a few basic commands: sit, shake, and (not as much) come. Her “come” command is much better as is her “down” command. According to dog rescuer, trainer, and TV show host Brandon McMillan, a dog should know seven basic commands: sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no.
We are working on all of those. Heel, off, and no are the most difficult for her. Her springer instincts drive her to explore, whether every blade of grass or tree trunk on a walk or the food on the table or kitchen counter. However, she is responding more positively to those instructions each day.
Because she is food motivated, receiving a treat reward for her positive responses to the commands given works with Sadie. In fact, according to a recent study, dogs do respond better to food rewards in training than any other type of motivator, including praise and pets. McMillan uses treats when training the dogs on his show or in private. “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan also touts the benefits of using food during training exercises, and the American Kennel Club stresses the use of small, easy-to-eat tidbits for training.
What About Cats?
Cats can also be trained using treats. You should also use a clicker, a small device that makes a clicking sound. Command, click, treat; command, click, treat. Cats can be taught to walk on a leash, to shake hands, and to come. A woman in Nebraska even taught her cats agility in order to increase their activity level and stimulate them mentally using a clicker and treats.
Celebrity cat behaviorist and trainer Jackson Galaxy encourages cat owners to use protein treats to train their cat(s). He notes you may have to try a variety of types to find one your cat likes.
Training your dog or cat whether that’s basic obedience or fun tricks to provide them with physical activity or mental stimulation is best accomplished through positive reinforcement. Punishment or other negative techniques are not only harmful physically and mentally, but also can damage the bond between you and your pet.
Watch and listen to Brandon McMillan on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgZro-RvMrE
Watch and listen to Jackson Galaxy discuss some tips on training a cat here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJcWoksdlOM
This month is a celebration of our feline friends. September is Happy, Healthy Cat Month! How can we ensure our kitty companions are happy and healthy? Here are five ways:
Find out more about ensuring the health and happiness of your cat at these websites:
Honor your feline friend by keeping him/her happy and healthy!
Last week I wrote about timing and adoption. Well, for my husband and I, the timing was just right. Our family unit changed last weekend – we adopted another dog! Our springer/cocker mix Mary died of cancer in April, leaving our shih tzu Jeremiah without a canine companion - and my husband without one as well.
Mary was primarily Greg’s dog, although she greeted everyone with a wag of her stubby tail. He missed his furry friend and about a month ago, we began looking. Greg’s one stipulation: we had to adopt another springer spaniel, or springer mix. Last week, we learned of one in our region that needed a home. We filed the adoption application, spoke to the foster “dad,” and made an appointment to visit on Sunday afternoon. Sadie, an 8-year-old springer spaniel, spent Sunday night in our home, thanks to English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America.
Adopting a new pet is an exciting adventure! A new life, a new friend, a new routine, all wrapped into a bundle of joy, love, and loyalty ... and in our case, energy! Sadie may be considered “middle-age” in years, but her energy level is that of a teen-pup. We’ve nicknamed her “Rocket Dog!” First thing each morning, she jettisons from her sleeping kennel, runs through the house to the back door, and launches herself into the backyard. She runs, and runs, and runs. The spaniel smile she displays captures a person’s heart. The joy she exhibits for life inspires … and wears a person out!
We knew to expect this behavior. She lived in her foster home for nearly a month; therefore, the family experienced her energetic, OCD-like, behavior. She receives medication daily to help calm her through the day, and she responds well to the drug. Greg also takes her on two to three walks daily, and she is learning to slow her stride better each day. Fortunately, we own recreational property not far from our house, and this weekend, we plan to take Sadie there for the first time. There’s an enclosed area there that Greg built last year for Mary that will become our new dog’s “off-leash” area, and we know she will enjoy that special space, even more probably than she does our fenced backyard.
Sadie and Jeremiah get along fine … except when the bigger dog doesn’t watch for the smaller one and steps on him. However, Jeremiah stands his ground and lets out a growl to help her understand she needs to keep a better watch where she’s going! I hope they become good friends, for Jeremiah and Mary relished a special bond, and I know he misses that connection. He and Sadie may never have the same relationship as he did with Mary, but Greg and I would love to see them lay next to each other on the couch or dog bed in the near future.
Adopting a new pet is not only exciting, but it can also be challenging. Integrating an animal into the household, especially a home with already-established pets, changes dynamics. Sometimes the pets already in the house don’t readily accept a new addition, and sometimes that acceptance just takes a while. A new pet can come with physical or emotional issues, as Sadie has, but that doesn’t make the animal “less than,” any more than such challenges makes a human child “less than.” Patience, perseverance, and understanding are critical in these situations, and being willing to go the extra mile for that animal in need is vital.
Greg and I are committed to helping Sadie feel secure and loved. What we will receive through the journey is priceless – the trust and loyalty of a beautiful creature. She’s already given us kisses, and a week hasn’t even gone by yet.
Rescued pets give us what many people do not: unconditional love and devotion. A person’s life is enriched by those things that money can’t buy. We’re blessed to share our home and our lives with Sadie, and the many other animals who have graced us with their presence over the years.
What animals have you adopted over the years? How have they enriched your life? Feel free to leave a comment.